Welcome, fellow Peggy Carter fans, to the first of my weekly Agent Carter posts for this season! Instead of doing a traditional episode review/analysis, I’m going to take a different path with these posts. Each week, I’m going to focus on something I learned from Peggy (or any of these fantastic characters) and explain how that lesson manifested itself throughout the episode (or pair of episodes, in this week’s case). I can’t wait to discuss what looks to be an excellent second season of this wonderful show with all of you, so don’t be shy—dive right into the comments section as soon as you’re done reading! And if you’re looking for more thoughts on this show, I highly recommend checking out MGcircles!
Kindness is power.
The Marvel Universe is filled with so many powerful people that it’s easy for us to focus only on the flashiest powers and stereotypically strongest people. But, in doing that, we lose sight of the beauty that comes from finding strength and power in unexpected places and people. There are so many different ways a person can be strong, and perhaps one of the most underappreciated powers a person can possess is the power to openly show kindness toward another human being. Agent Carter has always taken great pains to show strength in all its many forms, and that continued in this second season premiere with poignant examples of the value of kindness and the power of those who offer it to others.
The first new character we’re introduced to in this premiere is Ana Jarvis (played perfectly by Lottie Verbeek, who I also adored on Outlander), and Ana is the living embodiment of the idea that kindness is power. As a Jewish woman living in Hungary at the outset of World War II, Ana’s life couldn’t have been easy. But it was clear to anyone watching this season premiere that those hardships never turned her into someone cold, angry, or afraid. Instead, from the moment we met her, Ana lit up the screen like a firecracker.
At first glance, Peggy and Ana couldn’t appear more different: The former is like a strong handshake, while the latter is like a warm hug. While Peggy is a private person, Ana delights in open displays of affection. But neither is made to look “wrong” for their differences in demeanor. In fact, those differences allowed them to serve as wonderful complements instead of adversaries. Ana’s openness allowed her to fill the void in Peggy’s life left by Angie’s absence. She empathized with Peggy as Peggy mourned another loss. She reminded Peggy that seeking connection is a good thing—even if it doesn’t always last. And she never once seemed jealous or frustrated that her husband was spending time with a beautiful woman. Ana is a confident woman who’s confident in her marriage, and from that confidence came her ability to see Peggy not as a rival but a friend. And a friendship built on garter holsters and whiskey seems like exactly the kind of friendship Peggy needed to find in Los Angeles.
Peggy also seems poised to find friendship in an incredibly unlikely place: with Daniel Sousa’s current girlfriend, Violet. I loved the way this episode framed Peggy and Violet’s first meeting by putting us in Daniel’s shoes, nervous about how such a meeting might go—especially because we’d just experienced Peggy’s heartbreak upon discovering he had a girlfriend. But, of course, Agent Carter wouldn’t succumb to such trite conflicts. Instead, Daniel (and the audience) were treated to the sight of Peggy and Violet laughing and sharing cookies. The most impressive thing about that moment was that it was exactly what it seemed to be at face value: two women connecting and enjoying each other’s company. Neither was faking being nice only to become jealous or petty later. It would have been easy to include a moment of Violet getting angry with Daniel for canceling dinner to help Peggy. And on another show, Peggy might have said something disparaging about Violet’s penchant for bringing people baked goods or her bright and bubbly personality. But on this show, there seemed to be nothing but respect and kindness between those two women.
Kindness seemed to radiate off of Violet. (Some might wonder if she’s too kind to be real, but I’m in the camp that doesn’t want her to be a villain hiding in plain sight—that would be too cliché for my taste.) She’s the kind of woman who brings cookies to her boyfriend’s office, who doesn’t get mad when he has to cancel plans for work, who waits for him with breakfast after he pulls an all-nighter, and who’s quick with an “I love you” when it’s needed. And we’re not supposed to see her as a sucker or a sap because of that. We’re supposed to see her as a good woman with her own set of unique strengths—one of them being her kind and gentle heart.
There are some who might argue that having a gentle heart makes Violet different from Peggy, whose heart seems much tougher and war-torn. However, this premiere reminded me that Peggy can have a soft heart, too, and it softens the most around people like her—people who society wants to devalue. She’s not one of those women who believes she doesn’t need female friends. She sees her fellow women—no matter how different—as people of value. She never defined Daniel by his disability. We all know she started to fall for Steve Rogers when he was still a scrawny soldier. And, in this pair of episodes, we saw her gravitate toward another person society wanted to keep in his place: Jason Wilkes. The scene in which Wilkes described the people who wanted to stop him from dreaming because of his race broke my heart, and it was clear in that scene that Peggy found another kindred spirit. That’s what this show is really all about: people exceeding society’s expectations and redefining their value on their own terms.
With Jason, Peggy saw someone who faced even harsher discrimination because of his race than she did because of her gender. (That scene in the little store made me so uncomfortable, but that was exactly the point.) And the kindness she showed in defending him and encouraging him to open up about his past ignited the spark of attraction between them. While it might have ended before it really began (Although does anyone believe he’s really dead?), what mattered in that moment was that Peggy was able to open her heart again and find power in doing so.
Peggy’s slowly opening heart is going to be a major part of this season, if this premiere is any indication. And it seems Daniel is who Peggy most wants to open her heart to—although that’s not quite as easy now as it could have been back in New York. But no matter the complications between them, what matters the most is that—when Peggy needs him—Daniel is going to be there for her. This episode proved that. He worries about her in a special way, and it’s clear he means something special to her, too. (Did anyone else melt at the “Everything is through the first door on your right. You can’t miss him.” line?) They’ve shown each other kindness, support, and respect when others in their field (and society in general) tried to downplay their contributions and value.
I loved the moment when Daniel found Peggy after tragedy struck at Isodyne Energy because it had a wonderful undercurrent of romantic tension (Just hug already!) but also genuine care. Because that’s who Daniel is. He’s kind. He’s the person who asks someone if they’re okay before asking anything else. (And look at Peggy’s face after he asks; it’s clear most people don’t bother to ask her that.) He’s the kind of person to tell Peggy to go home and sleep—not with condescending authority but with sincere concern. Like Peggy, Daniel takes down bad guys and saves the day often, but his real power comes from his ability to be kind toward people who aren’t often shown kindness, and that includes Peggy.
Kindness is power, and so is having a heart open to accepting kindness. At times in Season One, Peggy’s heart wasn’t always open to accepting other people’s kindness. But this season, we’ve already seen Peggy accept the kindness shown to her by many people—from Ana and Violet to Jason and Daniel. It’s that combination of showing and accepting kindness that makes someone a hero who can find strength in moments of vulnerability. Those are the heroes Agent Carter celebrates every week, and I can’t wait to see how those heroes develop as this season progresses.
If you love Peggy Carter, you might be interested in writing a letter to her for The Fan Mail Project! More details about this project can be found here.